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White Plains Woman Pays 'Drowsy' Homage To Traditional Theater

Karen Hanely of White Plains will portray the Drowsy Chaperone in the Wilton Playshop production of "The Drowsy Chaperone". Photo Credit: Mary Alice Fisher
Karen Hanley grew up in Brooklyn, then moved to White Plains with her husband. Photo Credit: Nadia Quinn
Karen Hanley (holding the trophy) is a member of the O'Rourke Irish Dancers of White Plains. Photo Credit: Karen Hanley
Karen Hanley said her adult Irish Ceili team has won many awards for the O'Rourke Irish Dancers. Photo Credit: Karen Hanley

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Champagne makes you drowsy, but “The Drowsy Chaperone” will make you fall over laughing, said White Plains resident Karen Hanley, who portrays the Drowsy Chaperone in a production of the Tony Award-winning Broadway play set to open Friday.

Hanley, who moved to White Plains nearly 20 years ago, plays a classy and sophisticated, yet intoxicated, matron, whose job it is to chaperone Janet Van de Graaf on the day of her wedding. Van de Graaf is giving up her Broadway acting career to marry oil tycoon Robert Martin, when competing interests and intersecting love plots cause things to go awry.

“Karen portrays Drowsy with scene stealing, devil-may-care wit and talent,” Genia Meinhold, publicist for the Wilton Playshop in Wilton, Conn., said.

The play is set in 1928 and narrated by a man in a chair listening to the score of “The Drowsy Chaperone” in present day. The man in the chair stops the record, “Yes, a record”, throughout the play-within-a-play to give his commentary and explain the plots and subplots.

“It’s laugh out loud funny, and yet the thing that I like about it is it pays homage to traditional Broadway Theater,” Hanley told The Daily White Plains .

Performance has always been a part of Hanley’s life, but she only started acting four years ago, she said.  The Brooklyn-native started singing as a teenager and was lead singer for a rock band, Sweetthing, which played clubs like CBGBs.

“I knew that being on stage was my heart’s desire, and I have done it in one form or another,” Hanley said. “When you’re a front man for a band, you act. You put on a certain persona and you give the audience what they want.”

In the mid-1990s Hanley joined the adult Irish Ceili team of the O’Rourke Irish Dances of White Plains.

Hanley has performed in several productions since deciding to pursue acting, including: "Hairspray" as Velma Van Tussle, "42nd Street" as Dorothy Brock and "Romeo and Juliet" as Lady Capulet.

“I’ve only been doing this maybe four years, but I’ve been cast in something almost continually,” Hanley said. “It’s the biggest shock of my life. I’m overwhelmed beyond belief.”

The Wilton Playshop production runs Feb. 15 through Feb. 18, Feb. 21 through Feb. 24 and Feb. 28 through March 2.

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